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BDSM – Where do I begin? Vocabulary

So, let’s define the terms of this lifestyle.


Aftercare – After a BDSM scene, particularly a demanding one, the Top should make sure the bottom is OK and is returned to normal from high endorphin level (often called “subspace”) that BDSM scenes often cause.


BDSM – A popular acronym for activities inclusive of (but not limited to) Bondage, Domination/Discipline Submission/Sadism & Masochism. Also called WIITWD, an acronym for “What It Is That We Do.” Both mean this type of alternative lifestyle. Sometimes the word “Bondage” has the same broad range meaning when used in a descriptive context.


B&D – Bondage and Discipline. Although they go together in this phrase, they are not inextricably linked. Bondage means restraining someone in a helpless position (such as being tied up.) Discipline is training a person to behave in a certain way. They tend to go together because Dominants tend to do both to their submissives.


Bondage – making a submissive physically helpless and to a great extent immobilized. Techniques include rope ties, handcuffs, leather cuffs, stocks and mummification etc.


Bottom – A submissive. Also can be called a slave. As there are many who say there are differences between these terms, I will cover that debate in future columns.


Cane – A wooden, plastic or graphite stalk used in BDSM play. It can hurt, so use carefully.


Consensuality Agreement – The somewhat infrequent agreement that a Top requires a bottom to sign before play. This is usually executed in private play where the bottom is a newbie and an experienced Top does not wish to risk the bottom claiming, at some later date, that the scene was non-consensual.


D/s – Dominance and submission. A more specific term than BDSM (although D/s is contained within BDSM).


Discipline – Punishing, spanking, verbal orders, etc. for the purpose of training a submissive.


Dominant – Also called a Dom, a Top, a Master. One who controls a bottom, slave or submissive. Again, the differences between these terms – if there are any – will be covered in future


Edgeplay – Technically, this refers to knife play. But it has come to mean anything “on the edge.” It can even include fisting, asphyxia, play piercings, needle play, caning, etc. Since one person’s edge can be another’s norm, there are no hard and fast rules defining what “edgeplay” is.




Flogger – One of the most popular BDSM toys. It is made up of a handle and several leather straps which are attached to it. It can be used to whip or to caress.


Furniture – Slang for large pieces of equipment, usually at BDSM clubs. This includes, but not limited to, the legendary St. Andrews Cross, spanking benches, cages and a myriad of bondage equipment.


Lifestylers – Slang for those in the BDSM lifestyle – whether weekend warriors or 24/7 players.


Limit – The point beyond which a submissive does not allow the Dominant to go; usually stated before play. It can be a “soft limit,” which can change over time. Or a “hard limit,” which is more or less written in stone. For example, a submissive might say, “Nipple clamps are my soft limit.” Or, “Knife play is my hard limit.”


Negotiation – Discussing hard and soft limits and related items of BDSM taste before any play or relationship begins. Often refers to discussions regarding a potential “slave contract.”


Newbie – someone new to the BDSM lifestyle.


Masochist – One who derives pleasure from pain.


Master – A skilled Top. This is best explained in “What Is A Master?


Mummification – Using saran wrap to immobilize the bottom.


S&M – Sadism and masochism. This is an alternative term that used to describe the BDSM scene. Gradually it is being replaced with the broader ranging acronym BDSM.


Sadist – An individual who enjoys causing pain. The term dates back to the Marquis de Sade.


Sadomasochism – The taking of pleasure, often sexual gratification, from the consensual interactions between a “sadist” and a “masochist.”


Safe, Sane and Consensual – A popular slogan in the BDSM world meaning that play should always be safe and sane, with good judgment exercised. And, most importantly, it MUST be consensual.


Safe word – A word or phrase a submissive can use to stop his or her scene. It is absolute. If a Dominant disregards a submissive’s safe word, that Dominant is considered “unsafe.” The most common safe word – even in Fifty Shades — is “RED!” Sometimes the word “YELLOW” is agreed to which means “slow done a bit.”


Scene – A BDSM session. Sometimes refers to a “public scene” at a party where the participants let others watch.


Slave – A term used interchangeably with “submissive.” Some consider a slave a more extreme version of a submissive. This will be discussed in a future article, “Slave vs. submissive.”


Slave contract – A signed consensual contract, wherein a submissive or slave cedes to the Dom or Master a specified set of powers over him for a set period of time. Although legally unenforceable, it is still a powerful document in the BDSM community.


Submissive – An individual who consents to give up power to a Dominant. This can be for any duration – for an hour or a lifetime. Also called a sub, bottom or slave. Again, differences between these terms will be covered right here in future articles.


Subspace – A high endorphin state that a bottom often enters into when a skilled Dominant executes a good BDSM scene.


Torture – Not literal torture, but any type of pain inflicted by the Top on a bottom. Examples: tickle torture, clothespin play, nipple clamps, et. al.


Toys – Slang for portable BDSM equipment – usually contained in a “toy bag.”


Vanilla – People not in the BDSM lifestyle.


Violet Wand – Pricey electrical kink stimulation BDSM toys using the application of low current, high voltage electricity to the body.


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